Archive for January, 2008

Thoughts on the MacBook Air

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

I’m going to take a short break from my ongoing reports on my new Vye S37 to write a bit about the mobile computing device that is getting the most attention right now.  I’m referring to Apple’s MacBook Air ultra-portable, which was announced with quite a bit of fanfare during Steve Jobs’ annual keynote speech at the MacWorld Expo.

I’m certainly not a big Apple fan and the MacBook Air definitely wouldn’t fit my own personal needs (its footprint is way too big, for one thing), but I do think it looks like a reasonably decent device that should be a good fit for some users.  It has received a fair amount of criticism from some quarters, but I think most of its shortcomings are just examples of the types of compromise that has to take place when portability is a primary focus for the device.  Every such design has to require a fair amount of give and take.  Some potential customers will not be able to get by with the compromises that Apple chose to make, but those same concerns will be less important to others.

The key issue with the MacBook Air is really one that is inherent to Apple’s computers in general: the Mac OS remains a closed platform inextricably tied to a single manufacturer’s hardware.  Competition is one of the main things that makes the compromises on mobile PCs tolerable.   As noted in my recent post outlining the factors that led to my decision to purchase my Vye S37, there were all kinds of factors that led to my rejection of other decent systems in favor of the one that most closely matched what I wanted.  This was made possible by my preference for using an OS that woks on hardware from a wide variety of companies.

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Vye S37 – First week observations

Friday, January 18th, 2008

As the next part of my series of posts about my new Vye S37, I initially started to write up a detailed description of the process of configuration and system setup.  After a short time, I found that I was even boring myself.  Therefore, I’m going to instead just share some overall observations on my first week of use.  I’m going to take a bit of a stream-of-consciousness approach here, so hopefully it won’t be too rambling.

More on the Keyboard

In my last post, I already talked a bit about my early experiences with the keyboard.  The presence of the keyboard definitely is the biggest difference compared to my previous UMPC and I’m already seeing a substantial change in my use patterns.  With the eo, I found that I generally used it primarily as a sort of a combination of a web browsing device (essentially a MID) and an MP3 player.  When I bought it, I had visions of using it more for writing than I ever did.  The truth is that I never really got the hang of making handwriting recognition work.  Even with the improvements in Vista, I still had to make a huge number of manual corrections.  Even short discussion board posts, blog comments, or even emails took a ridiculously long time.

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Vye S37 – Aesthetics and design

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Continuing my early impressions of my new Vye S37, I’m going to spend some time here going over my “first impression” reactions to the overall aesthetics and design of the system. As a reminder, I have previously been using a TabletKiosk eo v7110 UMPC for close to 2 years, so it will obviously serve as a key point of comparison.

Exterior size and appearance

Even having used a different UMPC for quite a while, I still couldn’t help but react a bit to how small the Vye is. Even when the FedEx delivery man handed me the package, I was struck by how small it was. I suspect that if I had told the delivery man that the box contained a full-featured Windows Vista laptop computer, he probably wouldn’t have believed me.

IMG_0530

Since it is a convertible rather than a slate, the Vye is definitely a bit bulkier than the eo was, but it actually gives more of an impression of smallness since the form factor is one that we are generally used to seeing in devices that are twice as big or larger. The eo looks a lot like an enlarged iPod while the Vye looks much more like a laptop that was hit by a shrinking ray.

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Vye S37 – Pricing and Purchase Process

Monday, January 14th, 2008

After seeing the announcements from CES all moving towards smaller, less-powerful UMPCs and MIDs, I realized that my earlier research was correct and that the Vye S37 was clearly the best fit for my needs.  I placed my order late last week and received my unit on Saturday.  I haven’t really spent much time actually using the Vye yet as most of my focus this weekend was on getting the system configured.  This post will be my comments on the purchase process and I will soon add a post with my initial impressions of the system itself.

As I had mentioned in my earlier post, a key factor that attracted me to to the Vye was its use of a 2.5-inch hard drive and the assurance from the company that they could sell me a unit with 250GB of internal storage.  The larger hard-drive added an additional $218.60 to the base system prices that were listed on their web site.  This price came from the $168.60 price (including shipping) that Western Digital charged for the drive plus an additional $50 installation fee.  I also went with the upgraded 2GB memory option. After reviewing the various OS choices, I ended up selecting Vye’s "no OS" option since their price difference for adding Windows Vista Home Premium was actually more than the price of the OEM edition of Vista Ultimate from Newegg.com.  The total price of my system (including FedEx Saturday delivery) came to $1512.60.

 

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Ready to Upgrade

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Within the next few days, I expect to place an order for a new UMPC.  I think that the UMPC that is likely to best fit my needs is the Vye Mini-v S37 Model B.  I have had my TabletKiosk eo v7110 for almost 2 years now and I know that there are now a number of newer models out there that can offer a substantial upgrade in performance and features.  While my eo has served me well, I think it is time to get move up to something better.

I am paying attention to the UMPC-related announcements coming out of the currently running Consumer Electronics Show, but I don’t think it is too likely that anything will be a better fit for me than the Vye.  I’ve already seen the announcements from TabletKiosk and Samsung and their new UMPCs don’t appear to be better fits.  With the current trends, I have little expectation that anyone else will put something out that fits my needs either.  I probably will at least wait until the end of the first day of the show (Monday), but I expect to put in my order for a Vye in the next day or so.

The following is a run-down of the key criteria for my next UMPC purchase as well as the reasons why the Vye seems to meet them closely enough.

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